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May 4, 2010 1:20 AM   Subscribe

Who are the grandfathers of noise music? The Nihilist Spasm Band formed in 1965 when eight men, using homemade instruments, began creating noise together in London, Ontario. None of these men were traditionally trained musicians, yet they are often credited as being the major influence behind modern noise music, inspiring Japanese noisemakers like Hijokaiden and Masonna, as well as western artists like Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

Here are some videos of their (1) performances (2) (3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10), a video of the band appearing on Japanese television, and a brief clip from a Nihilist Party of Canada picnic.

20centsMUSIC (their label) has some photos of the band ranging from their early years to today, and if you want to hear more, you can also download some of their albums courtesy of the London Music Archive. Previously discussed in 2004, but a few of the links are broken/paywalled now
posted by threetoed (28 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
The picnic and Japanese TV clips are from Zev Asher's documentary What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band. It's a great flick if you can find it. It is also available on a certain popular video sharing site, illicitly I'm guessing, so I'm not going to directly link to it.
posted by threetoed at 1:21 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Murray Favro is one of those few guitarists that makes me think I shouldn't give up on the instrument. You wouldn't believe how many of the links in your post show up as previously visited in my browser.

Which is to say bravo, encore!
posted by idiopath at 1:37 AM on May 4, 2010


Lothar and the Hand People
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:41 AM on May 4, 2010


I've got a couple of their LPs somewhere -- if you enjoy NSB, you should check up on CCMC as well.
posted by Shepherd at 1:55 AM on May 4, 2010


Something I am rolling around between my ears and checking for mouth feel while listening to these clips:

The Shaggs : pop :: The Nihilist Spasm Band : Jazz

This could be wrong - but for now I am at least finding it interesting to consider. The two bands even formed within a few years of one another.
posted by idiopath at 1:56 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


uncanny hengeman: "Lothar and the Hand People"

ugh - totally unlistenable to me, would you really categorize them with TNSB?
posted by idiopath at 2:01 AM on May 4, 2010


ugh - totally unlistenable to me, would you really categorize them with TNSB?

I read "Nihilist Spasm Band" and "Lothar and the Hand People" immediately popped into my head. Their name is so memorable for me.

And to answer your question: I'm terrible at categorising music. All I know is that they played odd noises that, yes, didn't sound very tuneful at all.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:18 AM on May 4, 2010


It was the tunes I couldn't stand with the hand people. With the spasm band I am there listening for the noise and for the open structure and the lack of rules. With the hand people the noises are some sound effects to accompany fairly unremarkable and formulaic rock music. Not really all that comparable for me.

I guess I am at least as much a fan of noise for what is absent as for what is present.

Yeah I know it looks like I am all obsessed with talking about myself here but I am trying to avoid sweeping generalizations so I am sticking to describing how I listen.
posted by idiopath at 2:32 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Luigi Russolo?
posted by p3on at 2:32 AM on May 4, 2010


God fucking damnit I have too much to say about this subject.

Luigi Russolo was one of the futurists. See also Picasso getting inflated credit for what was clearly a followup on futurist painting, the Dadas (and even more so the explicitly communist Surrealists) getting inflated credit for their followups in literature.

So Cage and the Nihilist Spasm Band get credit as innovators for things the futurists did first, because the futurists have been voted off the island for being fascists. Not that I advocate any tolerance for fascism - but it is interesting to see the degree to which fascist artists were simply erased from history (this can be seen in the punk world as well).
posted by idiopath at 2:53 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nihilist Spasm Band? Is that what they call ICP these days?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:20 AM on May 4, 2010


Perhaps George Antheil is the great-grandfather?
posted by Joe Beese at 4:29 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lothar and the Hand People

All I know is that they played odd noises that, yes, didn't sound very tuneful at all.


what
posted by Sys Rq at 5:31 AM on May 4, 2010


no mention of Boyd Rice ?
posted by unpoppy at 5:45 AM on May 4, 2010


And once you meet someone from London ALL THEY TALK ABOUT IS FAVRO AND THE NIHILISTS!

Seriously.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:57 AM on May 4, 2010


no mention of Boyd Rice ?
posted by unpoppy at 8:45 AM on May 4 [+] [!]


Why? Unless he started making noise records when he was 11 years old, I can't see how he'd be relevant here.


I've seen NSB a few times, it's a great live show. Be sure to check them out while you can. They are all getting on in the years, and 2 of them are deceased.
posted by Theta States at 6:05 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Greg Curnoe was a member too. I like Favro's art better, but they're both Ontario greats.
posted by anthill at 6:14 AM on May 4, 2010


"Nihilist Spasm Band" strikes me as a lot like something that needs a "Metafilter:" in front of it but I'm not going to be the one to go there by christ.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:31 AM on May 4, 2010


The Nihilist Spasm Band : Jazz

Totally. Just totally. (Zornian?)
posted by vhsiv at 7:18 AM on May 4, 2010


Why? Unless he started making noise records when he was 11 years old

I started making "noise" with the kid next door when I was nine (1968 or thereabouts). Two tape recorders, various household items, the dog, his baby brother, etc. It just never occurred to me to call it art, or music, or anything but "fun". Not until I heard the Beatles Revolution 9 maybe two years later.

As for the Spasm Band, I saw them once back in the 90s jamming with Zev Asher after a showing of the movie. It was definitely fun which, for me, is a key factor with "noise". Any nine year old can crank it out. The magic is in communicating something other than gut level angst and/or chaosity.
posted by philip-random at 7:40 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, should we get off your lawn?
posted by Theta States at 8:24 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


See also Picasso getting inflated credit for what was clearly a followup on futurist painting

Just have to say that this is not really accurate. On the one hand, Picasso's Cubism was actually a major influence on the futurists (although the reverse, less so). Around 1911-1912, artists like Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini start appropriating ideas from Braque and Picasso's nascent analytic cubist language in order to find a better way to continue their project of producing an image of an image object's movement in time. (Picasso paints Les Demoiselle d'Avignon in 1907, often referred to as the 'first' Cubist painting.) On the other hand, Futurism's use of this language is a fruitful misinterpretation of Cubism. While the Cubist painting attempts to make the visual sign increasingly arbitrary (in the Saussurean sense, thus something that refers to an object without resembling it), the futurists use the analytic Cubist fragmentation of the object to make their works better resemble an object in motion. So, while appearing somewhat similar, their projects are actually quite different.
posted by huffa at 9:06 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


And once you meet someone from London ALL THEY TALK ABOUT IS FAVRO AND THE NIHILISTS
[Gulp] I grew up in London with Greg Curnoe & Murray Favro's kids, and with this whole Nihilst Spasm scene - parties at the Curnoe's house, the Nihilist Party picnic up in Arva Park. Curnoe & Favro's 'Forest City Gallery' used to host all-ages shows for the local hardcore and artsy bands, and visiting acts like DOA as well, and the Spasm Band would often be the opening act. I'll never forget the first show I went to at the Forest City Gallery, as a wide-eyed 14 year old suddenly realising there's this whole other world going on right in my city - my life literally changed overnight.
I'd say the Spasm Band's music needs to be experienced in that kind of context, as performance art (eg a guy screaming behind a shower curtain) rather than listened to as music. Of all the bands I saw back in London, only Dwarves put on a crazier show.
I was amazed to learn that they had this worldwide, cult following. They were so local, and cared so much about that fading city. It's this that I've always carried with me: that love and sense of belonging to a community, as well as the passion, exuberance and fun that just beamed out of these guys.
posted by Flashman at 10:04 AM on May 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, should we get off your lawn?

Is this aimed at me? If so, it missed. I don't have a lawn.
posted by philip-random at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2010


... by which I mean, I loved noise in 1968. I love it in 2010. As long as it's toward something beyond root "Me, Me, Me" angst and/or nihilism. As long as it's beautiful and true (like any work of art).
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2010


I've only seen the NSB play once, but the one thing I remember clearer than anything else was the shit-eating grin Favro had on his face as he wailed away on his guitar. Sure, the noise the Band made that night was amazing, but the fact that they were clearly enjoying themselves made the show all that much better.

The highlight of the evening was the extra set the NSB played after the show with the local opening act. It was one of the craziest, most brutal things I've ever heard, more so than the actual NSB set itself. After the show, I tried to strike up a conversation with a couple metalheads that were sitting nearby but the only things we could say to each other were "Dude" and "Holy fuck" and the like.

Sometimes I wonder if there's a recording of that show floating out there somewhere, but I think if I found one, it would ruin the memory.
posted by threetoed at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2010


When I am thinking of the "grandfathers" of noise music, usually while I am strolling on my HUGE expanse of lawn, my mind is immediately drawn to Edgard Varèse, and somewhat later, and perhaps less noisy Harry Partch. NSB, Faust, et al, came from these roots, as well as, yes, Stravinsky (one of Varèse's influences). Tying this back to futurism, but not throwing baby out with bath water, is that Busoni was impressed by Varèse, too, and apparently the feeling was mutual.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:59 PM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like noise, what I really like about NSB is their joy. They hosted a short-lived noise festival ten years ago that was such a happy event.
posted by saucysault at 11:36 PM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


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